Binti Question I - Binti's Peoples

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The Khoush seem to be any human who is not Himba in the first Novella, though Okorafor says they are not white. The Himba are a people based on the real Himba people of Namibia, and in the second Novella we find there are a third human people, the Enyi Zinariya, Binti's father's people, who live further in the desert. There seem to be no other groups. This is a different way to group cultures. Though the Himba are treated as primitive by the Khoush, they are technologically advanced, and are the only source of astrolabes, the computer/communicator of this world. Though the Enyi Zinariya are treated as primitives by the Himba, they are technologically further advanced than the Himba in at least some ways, having their astrolabes internalized in a sense through nanotech. Did you find this interesting? Why do you think she set it up this way?

Comments

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    My feeling is that the perception of whether a culture was seen as more or less primitive had to do with social organisation and practice (unless it was simply bigotry, which appeared to be the case sometimes). So the Koush look down on the Himba partly because have what seems at first sight to be a more archaic family-based structure, and they did stuff like coating their bodies in paste which seems superstitious. I didn't get the sense that primitive/sophisticated had much to do with technical skill.

    Maybe you could liken it to the little creatures who go round in the big machines on Tatooine scavenging robots (can't remember their name)... everyone looks down on them, but they may well be the cleverest group on the planet!
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    @RichardAbbott said:
    My feeling is that the perception of whether a culture was seen as more or less primitive had to do with social organisation and practice (unless it was simply bigotry, which appeared to be the case sometimes). So the Koush look down on the Himba partly because have what seems at first sight to be a more archaic family-based structure, and they did stuff like coating their bodies in paste which seems superstitious. I didn't get the sense that primitive/sophisticated had much to do with technical skill.

    Did you think that interesting set up that way? What does it facilitate in the stories?

    Maybe you could liken it to the little creatures who go round in the big machines on Tatooine scavenging robots (can't remember their name)... everyone looks down on them, but they may well be the cleverest group on the planet!

    Jawas. Always liked those little buggers! Did you see the Mandalorian? There is a very cool episode about Jawas!

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    I did wonder why there were no other cultures seemingly on earth. She never spoke of an apocalypse. She did speak of the Himba being from Namibia at the beginning - at the end, I thought I must have misread that and that these people are from a planet called Namibia - else why would there seem to be no other people on earth? It doesn't really make sense to me that the Khoush are from earth, because they're locked in an interstellar war with the Meduse, yet the Himba are between these groups. If the Khoush were earthlings, and the Meduse from another planet (clearly they are aliens), why would the Himba be between them? Whether the Khoush are earthlings or not, why are there only two groups of people on earth (Khoush and various Namib tribes). That seems a monumental enough change to need explaining.

    Then there's a wide universe of other aliens that Binti meets at university, which also seem not to play a role in this whole Himba/Meduse/Khoush ecosystem. Frankly, I found it a bit hard to parse, so I suspected I wasn't meant to,

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    I don't think the Meduse even know of the existence of the desert tribes until they meet up with Binti, as it is clearly only the Khoush who go out into space. So the Meduse are willing to deal with the Himba as intercessors because the Himba have never harmed them.

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    I thought I read early on in the first or second story that the desert people were in the middle, or at least always suffered when the other two people fought.
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    I think the reference was to an old African saying, that "The grass suffers when elephants war", which means it's stupid to get between two much bigger combatants if one has a choice.

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    I thought it simply represented a culture's worldview: There's us, there's the people who oppress us (and who everyone has joined with), and there are some primitive people who aren't us, but haven't joined the oppressors. We have to deal with all of them, but they ain't us. They have neighbours we don't know.

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    @BarnerCobblewood said:
    I thought it simply represented a culture's worldview: There's us, there's the people who oppress us (and who everyone has joined with), and there are some primitive people who aren't us, but haven't joined the oppressors. We have to deal with all of them, but they ain't us. They have neighbours we don't know.

    That is what I assumed it was in the beginning, but I began second guessing myself. It's an occupational hazard.

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    I think the world is limited to Africa (specifically southern Africa) in much the same way that much American SF assumes the world is limited to the USA. It's a statement that the world doesn't revolve around the global north. I don't think it says anything about Binti's world so much as it says something about our expectations of how the world is described.

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    @NeilNjae said:
    I think the world is limited to Africa (specifically southern Africa) in much the same way that much American SF assumes the world is limited to the USA. It's a statement that the world doesn't revolve around the global north. I don't think it says anything about Binti's world so much as it says something about our expectations of how the world is described.

    So - a political statement. Thank you, Neil!

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    I agree that’s the likely explanation. However if it’s dissatisfying when the Americans do it, it’s equally dissatisfying here.
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    @Apocryphal said:
    I agree that’s the likely explanation. However if it’s dissatisfying when the Americans do it, it’s equally dissatisfying here.

    Disappointing, I thought. It's like the answer to parochialism is parochialism in a different place?

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    I agree with @NeilNjae's point, but OTOH we had the aliens who visited long ago and were kept secret by the desert people, and the use of whose technology was somehow lost. Somewhere I made a flippant comment about mitochondrias and being born to it or something, but what did people think of the plot device of some folks waiting for us to be ready for them to come to our university, and knowing we were ready by our genetic electrical math spontaneously making a device work? Actually it reminded me of 2001. Seems like there's another story there, but without the young protagonist.

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    If this is 2001, are we the apes? :D

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    @Apocryphal said:
    I agree that’s the likely explanation. However if it’s dissatisfying when the Americans do it, it’s equally dissatisfying here.

    I agree with that. If "Khoush" means "not Himba", it would have been nice to acknowledge the variety of people under the "Khoush" umbrella. If "Khoush" means "neighbour of Himba" it would have been nice to see some non-Khoush humans.

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